He faces a mur­der charge. But first, a get­away

A judge okays the trip for an ex-official on house ar­rest.

Tampa Bay Times - - Local - BY TONY MAR­RERO Times Staff Writer

LAKE­LAND — A for­mer Lake­land city com­mis­sioner charged with mur­der in the fa­tal shooting of a man he sus­pected of shoplift­ing is on house ar­rest, but that won’t stand in the way of a December week­end trip he had planned with his wife to Sa­van­nah, Ga.

A judge on Thurs­day granted a re­quest by Michael Dunn to travel with wife, Brandi, to the historic coastal city to cel­e­brate their an­niver­sary Dec. 7 to 10. Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, the cou­ple planned and paid for the trip in July, about three months be­fore Chris­to­bal Lopez was fa­tally shot at Dunn’s mil­i­tary sur­plus store.

Dunn was ar­rested 16 days later and charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der. He was re­leased Oct. 25 af­ter post­ing $150,000 bail. As a con­di­tion of his re­lease, he had to turn over all his firearms and leave his Polk County home only for work, church, meet­ings with his at­tor­neys and med­i­cal ap­point­ments. He also needs to get per­mis­sion to leave the county.

One of Dunn’s at­tor­neys, Mark

O’Mara, filed a mo­tion Nov. 1 ask­ing the court’s per­mis­sion for Dunn to travel to Ge­or­gia for the an­niver­sary trip. The cou­ple made non-re­fund­able reservations on July 13, ac­cord­ing to the mo­tion. Dunn would con­tinue to check in with pre­trial ser­vices each day, the mo­tion says.

Pros­e­cu­tors op­posed the re­quest be­cause of the sever­ity of the charge against Dunn, As­sis­tant State At­tor­ney Ja­cob Orr said in an in­ter­view Fri­day.

“If it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for him to be on house ar­rest, then it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for him to be on house ar­rest and not off on va­ca­tion in Sa­van­nah when he’s fac­ing a mur­der charge,” Orr said.

Cir­cuit Judge Wayne Dur­den granted the re­quest be­cause the trip had al­ready been planned and paid for but added that Dunn should not make any more outof-state travel plans, Orr said.

Dunn, 47, re­ported see­ing Lopez pocket a hatchet the af­ter­noon of Oct. 3 in­side the Army Navy Vets Sur­plus store in Lake­land co-owned by Dunn, who was a city com­mis­sioner at the time. Lopez, a 50year-old agri­cul­tural la­borer, had en­tered the store with his fa­ther, po­lice said.

Dunn asked Lopez if he was go­ing to pur­chase the item, po­lice said.

Video from in­side the store shows Dunn hold­ing a gun in his right hand as Lopez tries to ad­vance to­ward the door. Dunn pushes Lopez with his left arm, and Lopez tries to leave again.

Still point­ing the gun at Lopez, Dunn grabs at Lopez’s shoul­der from be­hind, as Lopez makes it out the door, the video shows. Lopez raises his left arm in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to break free, and Dunn ap­pears to fire. Lopez falls to the pave­ment. He died at the scene.

Dunn told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he fired twice be­cause he was in fear, an ar­rest re­port says. But when asked what would have hap­pened if he had let go of Lopez, he said: “It might be fair to say that if I just stepped back and let some­body come in and take what they want, there would be no is­sue!”

Polk State At­tor­ney Brian Haas has said he doesn’t be­lieve the killing of Lopez was pre­med­i­tated. But he also didn’t see grounds for a self-de­fense claim, so he took the mat­ter to a grand jury, which in­dicted Dunn.

Michael Dunn

Chris­to­bal Lopez

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